Google’s “mobile-first” update is coming – how you can avoid getting hit

This just in from the World Wide Web - Google is rolling out a new algorithm update that could see mobile-friendly website appearing higher in Google's search results than desktop-only websites.

The update will rank webpages based on the quality of their mobile content, so if your mobile content isn't up to scratch (or your website isn't optimised for mobile after all), your ranking in the search results could get hit, along with your website traffic, website enquiries and website conversions as a result.

You might think, "But the people visiting my website aren't searching on mobile anyway. I'll be okay."

If this is you, we have some bad news - the change is going to update the search results for both mobile and desktop users.

So what does this mean for you? Basically, having a quality mobile version of a website will be more important than ever. The good news is that the new index isn’t likely to come into effect until early- to mid-2018, so there’s plenty of time to make sure your site is up to scratch.

Here’s what you should consider.

1. Get a responsive site

First things first: If you don’t already have one, now is the time to upgrade to a responsive website. A responsive site contains design elements that adapt to different screen sizes – from the widest desktop down to the smallest mobile and every size in between. 21% of Australians only access the internet on their mobiles, and 74% rely on their phones at least as much as their desktop computers – so you’ll be improving user experience as well as your Google ranking by ensuring your site is responsive.

2. Optimise your mobile site speed

Site speed has always been important for SEO, but it will be even more so with Google’s mobile-first index. Use Google’s free mobile site speed tool to see how your webpage is performing. After identifying areas that need attention, it will even offer recommendations for improvement and steps to fix problems.

3. Adjust your content for mobile devices

Aim to make the written content on your website as snappy as possible, using short sentences and and easily digestible paragraphs. The layout of your website should also be clean and minimal wherever possible, with good use of white (blank) space. This will help ensure your content looks well laid out on mobile, without walls of text taking up entire mobile screens.

4. Beware of pop-ups

Google is planning to penalise websites with intrusive mobile pop-ups, so steer clear of these to avoid hurting your ranking. If you have a pop-up on your website (a newsletter sign-up box, for example), consider integrating this into the body of the page instead.

5. Test, test, test!

It may seem obvious, but one of the most important things you can do to ensure your website is ready for Google’s mobile-first index is to test extensively on mobile devices. Even if you always use a desktop to view your own website, look out for factors such as site speed, ease of navigation, and general layout and usability on mobile devices. Use tools like Screenfly to test your website at different screen resolutions – which you should do any time you make changes.

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